TRUE COST OF WAR TO BE HIDDEN UNTIL AFTER ELECTIONS -- (House of Representatives - February 11, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Cooper) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. COOPER. Mr. Speaker, I addressed the House last night on the subject of President Bush's State of the Union message and compared his words on that evening in this Chamber just some 3 weeks ago in which he said he would present to us a budget which paid for the war, and let me read his words exactly. "In 2 weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war."
Well, 2 weeks later, the President failed to do that. He failed to include any of the cost for the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan in his budget. You might think that is just a conflict, maybe a miscommunication with speech writers. But yesterday on the Senate side in a very important hearing the service chiefs of the Marines, Army and Air Force all said that this funding gap, the possible failure of our forces in Afghanistan and Iraq to have the money that they need come this fall, could create serious consequences.
Let me read the article from today's New York Times. "In an unusual display of difference with the White House, the top officers of the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force all raised questions on Tuesday about how the Bush administration plans to pay for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq after the current financing runs out at the end of September.
"Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, three of the four chiefs of the Armed Services expressed concerns about a financing gap, perhaps of 4 months, for the two missions, whose combined cost is about $5 billion a month.
"They were left out of President Bush's budget request for the 2005 fiscal year, with the administration saying it would make a supplementary request for up to $50 billion probably next January, after the elections this year.
""I am concerned,' General Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army Chief of Staff, said in response to a question from Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, 'on how we bridge between the end of this fiscal year and whenever we could get a supplemental in the next year.'
"General Michael W. Hagee, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and General John P. Jumper, the Air Force Chief of Staff, agreed with General Schoomaker's concerns."
A little further down in the article, General Schoomaker stated, "We are all concerned about maintaining continuity of operations. We want to make sure that we minimize the bridge." He emphasized that the timing and mechanics of seeking a supplemental spending bill were up to the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and White House officials. He said that he was simply describing the possible consequences for the Army.
Mr. Speaker, America knows we are at war. We know that 120,000 of our men and women in uniform are in daily, constant danger in Iraq, and 10,000 more troops are at danger in Afghanistan. Yet none of the cost of this war is in the President's budget. The President has said that he will get a supplemental request to us after the election. That is probably not time enough, according to these top military officials.
Our men and women in uniform deserve better treatment. They deserve full funding, full continuity of funding, and full, honest accounting of how much this operation costs, and the American taxpayer is ready to step up to those needs. We should not hide the true cost until after the election and risk undercutting our men and women in uniform in the field when they are at war because of politics in this political season. Let us do better in this House to fully fund our men and women in uniform.